Meet the Plaintiffs of HG v. Harrington
"Our children are the next generation. At the end of the day, we need to come together and make the changes necessary to ensure that they get the best education possible, no matter what."
Tanisha Garner, mother from Newark, NJ
HG v. Harrington
Some New Jersey public school districts face severe budget shortfalls that threaten the risk of widespread teacher layoffs across the district. Teacher layoffs in New Jersey are governed by a rigid quality-blind mandate, often referred to as the “last in, first out” policy, which forces schools to fire teachers based on district seniority alone. By allowing more senior ineffective teachers to remain in classrooms while more junior effective and highly-effective teachers lose their jobs, students’ constitutional right to an education is violated because no in-school factor matters more than effective teaching. Even one year with a highly effective teacher has a lifelong impact on students. These students are less likely to have children as teenagers, more likely to graduate high school and attend college, earn a higher salary, and save more for retirement.
Under the current teacher layoff law in New Jersey, four times as many Newark schools will lose a significant number of effective and highly-effective teachers, as compared to a policy that would allow school administrators to consider classroom effectiveness. Struggling districts, including Newark, are especially vulnerable under LIFO because they employ a disproportionately high concentration of ineffective teachers.
Great teaching has the potential to level the playing field. Advocating for their children, parents are empowering themselves and raising their voices to fix the education problems that politicians and education leaders in Trenton have been unable to address.
Newark Parents Opposed Governor Christie's Plan
In September 2016, The New Jersey Commissioner of Education filed a motion asking the New Jersey Supreme Court to remove a long-standing requirement that Newark and other high-need school districts receive extra state funding. In the same motion, the State also asked the Supreme Court to grant the Commissioner of Education authority to waive LIFO in Newark and similar districts.
The parent-plaintiffs of HG v. Harrington opposed the State’s Supreme Court filing for two fundamental reasons. If the state had been permitted to reduce education funding to Newark, the district stood to lose almost 69 percent of its state funding, which would have devastated their children’s schools and thrown the district into a dire fiscal crisis. The plaintiffs also opposed the State’s assertion that LIFO should be enforceable at the discretion of a political appointee. These parents know this law is unconstitutional and refuse to accept a solution that falls short of a complete end to the quality-blind mandate in their district and others like it.
Since 2012, the Newark Public School district has only avoided laying off effective teachers by paying millions of dollars a year to cover the salaries of ineffective - but more senior - teachers, even when no principal would agree to their placement in their school. This costly work-around to the LIFO mandate has diverted valuable resources that could have been spent in the classroom or on other programs that directly benefit Newark public school students.
Partnership for Educational was founded on the belief that litigation can empower parents to fight inequality and inadequacy in our education system. HG v. Harrington is a parent-led lawsuit that asks the courts to declare the state’s LIFO law unconstitutional in Newark and districts like it, where ineffective teachers are likely to remain in classrooms while effective teachers are laid off based only on the date that they started teaching in a particular school district.